The Maine Democratic Party is bucking President Obama and rejecting one his most significant second-term policy initiatives: The Trans-Pacific Partnership economic and trade agreement.
On May 17, the Democratic State Committee – the elected leaders of the state party – passed a strongly worded resolution denouncing the trade pact and efforts to grant the president fast-track authority.
The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the deal this week, but it faces significant opposition from Democratic members and passage depends on an unusual alliance between the president and Republicans.
There are legitimate concerns, particularly for Maine, in passage of the TPP. New Balance, one of the last domestic manufacturers of athletic shoes and a major employer in Maine, has said the deal puts at risk its business. Nearly 1,000 jobs are at stake for the shoemaker.
And Maine’s manufacturing community have painful memories of the North American Free Trade Agreement and its disastrous impact on workers. A Legislative report from 2003 found that while some industries won and others lost with the agreement, Maine lost 800 jobs with NAFTA over all.
The Democratic State Committee put job loss and outsourcing at the center of its opposition: “The TPP will spur another exodus of American jobs in the service, public and manufacturing sectors, as it includes rules that will make it even easier for corporate America to outsource call centers, programming, engineering, and manufacturing jobs, putting Americans out of work.”
Public Citizen, an advocacy organization in Washington, says that the TPP puts at risk government policies that include food safety regulations, work rules and environmental protections and could further elevate the power of foreign corporations to undermine regulations that they don’t like.
As the New York Times explained, TPP is a lot more than just a trade agreement: “A lot of it is about labor, environmental standards, intellectual property and access to markets for services like banking and accounting. And in contrast with the tariff cuts, there’s a lot more reason to worry that some of the agreement’s non-trade provisions would hurt the world economy even as they benefited specific industries.
While the impacts of the Trans-Pacific Partnership are real – and have a direct impact on Maine jobs and our economy – the fight over the agreement hasn’t received significant attention in the Maine media, partially because the details aren’t open to the public (many of them haven’t been negotiated yet), although members of Congress can have limited access to information about the plan.
We should all be paying attention.
Right now President Obama and his most steadfast critics in the House of Representatives are on one side, and the Maine Democratic Party, most Congressional Democrats (and the president’s biggest allies and defenders) organized labor and environmental groups on the other.
Big money and big risks can make strange bedfellows.
The text of the Democratic State Committee’s resolution is below.
Resolution of the Maine Democratic State Committee
Adopted May 17, 2015
WHEREAS, the American people and their representatives in the United States Congress have a right to know details of trade agreements being made on their behalf and to know what provisions of state or federal law, as well as the constitutions of the United States and its several states, may be superseded by decisions that can be made by any board that controls or administers trade agreements, such as the International Trade Dispute Resolution Tribunal; and
WHEREAS, the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations have been very secretive; and
WHEREAS, the American people and their representatives in the United States Congress must have ample opportunity to review the full text of any agreement before it is considered for acceptance of passage by the United States Congress;
WHEREAS, the latest provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership’s Investor-State Dispute Settlement System aggressively expand the powers of multinational corporations, giving them the ability to undermine democracy by challenging our federal, state and local laws and programs that could diminish any of their future expected profits in international tribunals; and
WHEREAS, the TPP will spur another exodus of American jobs in the service, public and manufacturing sectors, as it includes rules that will make it even easier for corporate America to outsource call centers, programming, engineering, and manufacturing jobs, putting Americans out of work; and
WHEREAS, such unfettered power would result in an erosion of collective bargaining rights and a rollback of labor, health, consumer safety, and environmental regulations, and spurring a race to the bottom and an increase in wealth and income inequality;
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Maine Democratic Party rejects the “fast tracking” of the Trans-Pacific Partnership; denounces any elements which result in the massive expansion of corporate power and the weakening of democratic rule and worker’s rights; and calls for the disclosure of all the details of the agreement; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that the Maine Democratic Party send this to our congressional delegation and the President of the United States.